Super Bowl XXXVI Champions appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the picture seemed decent but contained enough flaws to drop my grade to a “B-“.
Sharpness generally appeared adequate. Most of the footage came across as reasonably crisp and distinct, but more than a few shots displayed less than ideal definition. Some vague softness interfered with the presentation at times. I never saw anything that looked terribly fuzzy, but some examples were mildly unfocused. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also saw no signs of edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, I detected some grain as well as occasional speckles, but for the most part, the image remained clean.
Colors looked fairly vivid and vibrant, though they also seemed somewhat lackluster. While well saturated and clear, I felt the hues could have appeared brighter much of the time. They displayed no decided problems, but they simply lacked the liveliness I expected. Black levels seemed dense and deep, while shadow detail - a minor issue during the brightly lit games - appeared appropriately defined without too much thickness. Ultimately, Champions suffered from few real problems, but the presentation simply seemed a little flat and lackluster.
The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Super Bowl XXXVI Champions mainly suffered from a lack of ambition. The soundfield appeared very restricted for the most part. Frankly, the majority of the audio seemed monaural. Music opened up the spectrum fairly well, as the side speakers displayed the score with good stereo imaging. In addition, some crowd elements during games broadened the environment to a minor but useful degree. Surround usage appeared totally limited to general reinforcement of music and cheering; the rear speakers played a very small role in the presentation.
Audio quality was good but unexceptional. Speech seemed natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects sounded clear and accurate, as the various hits and crunches appeared realistic. Music functioned best of all, as the score and songs presented bright highs and pretty solid bass response; the mix enjoyed good low-end punch from the music. Overall, this remained a fairly bland soundtrack, but it displayed no substantial concerns.
As I alluded earlier, Super Bowl XXXVI Champions provides a few supplements, and we start with the halftime performance by U2. During this 12-minute and 15-second clip - which includes a pre-set montage - they play “Beautiful Day”, a snippet of “MLK”, and “Where the Streets Have No Name”. The vaguely resembles the heart used on their 2001 Elevation tour, though it doesn’t seem to extend into the crowd. The performance also features a scroll of 9/11 casualties the band used for shows during the tour’s October through December third leg. Note that this list has been significantly expanded since its premiere. Originally it showed just the passengers on the four planes, but as the tour progressed, it added various rescue workers. As seen during the Super Bowl, it provided all those names as well as folks who perished in the Pentagon and in the World Trade Center.
Many people praised U2’s show at the game, and if one compares it to typical Super Bowl halftime fare, it indeed rocked. However, when viewed next to the band’s real concerts, it seemed flat and awkward. With no time to warm up, U2 didn’t get into a groove, and Bono’s vocals sounded truly terrible. Through 27 concerts, I’ve heard him have bad nights, but never as weak as this.
Don’t expect much from the picture or sound quality of the set. It looked as though they took it straight from the video master, and it showed. I’m glad to have this performance, but I found the sound and visuals to be somewhat disappointing.
Next we find The NFL Salutes America. Basically this offers a five minute and 45 second tribute to the US. Various players reflect on things post September 11. It’s a reasonably dignified piece; while it did little for me, it seemed acceptably effective.
Another three featurettes provide some historical focus. 1976 Patriots gives us a five minute and five second look at that year’s team. We see many clips of those games and hear from Patriots defensive lineman Ray Hamilton, quarterback Steve Grogan, linebacker Steve Nelson, tight end Russ Francis, plus Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum and quarterback Ken Stabler. The show touts the ’76 Pats as one of the greats, and we find the focus mainly on their playoff loss to the Raiders. It’s interesting to see, especially since the season hinged on a controversial note.
One quibble: we’re told that if the Pats had beaten the Raiders, they might have won a slew of Super Bowls. If they were so great, why’d they never go beyond that level? It’s not like the loss of one game meant the end of the team. The Pats never even made a Super Bowl until after the 1985 season, when the Bears slaughtered them.
We hear a little about that game during a program that centers on long-term quarterback Steve Grogan. This four-minute and 25-second piece offers more game clips and interviews with Grogan, linebacker Steve Nelson, broadcaster Gil Santos, running back Craig James, guard John Hannah, and center Pete Brock. It’s a decent little overview of Grogan’s career.
In the next piece, we learn about the career of Gino Cappelletti, a player from the team’s earlier days. We hear from Cappelletti, Gil Santos, linebacker Nick Buoniconti, and Bills linebacker Mike Stratton during this four-minute and 20-second program. It resembles the Grogan offering and also gives us a reasonably interesting glimpse at his career.
One annoyance found on this DVD: some totally unskippable promos at its start. We find two short - but long enough to irritate - ads that cannot be avoided. This kind of stuff is a minor nuisance, but it doesn’t need to be here.
For fans of the New England Patriots, Super Bowl XXXVI Champions offers a nice souvenir of their big season. For others, however, the show seems too light and fluffy to provide much value. The DVD provides bland but acceptable picture and sound along with an average set of extras. Diehard backers of the Patriots - or huge U2 aficionados like myself - will want to give it a look, but everyone else should skip it.